Gotha date; RH

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From Aspasia, with love
12-04-2019, 09:32 PM
Post: #1
From Aspasia, with love
The following storyline is a co-production of Pep and me. It follows Princess Moa's visit to the Anisoran colony of Aspasia in Altaia in March 7580. For context, see the Surprise visit to Anisora storyline.

Julicannia, the official part

“I must say, Your Highness, it is a great pleasure and indeed an honour to welcome someone like yourself to Aspasia.” Lord Vestignano, Viceroy and Governor-General of Aspasia, stood opposite Princess Moa, or Tovemor as she was known to the officious Anisorans. He was a man of average height in his early fifties, a retreating hairline and a large waxed moustache framing a large smile. He wore the elaborate uniform of a viceregal colonial official, all gold brocade, with the burgundy and white sash of the Imperial Aspasian Order adorning his chest, gathering at his hip where a ceremonial sword hung from his belt.

Besides Lord Vestignano and Princess Moa, Iunse Tunn, Federal Steward of Fisks was present, as well as Lady Vestignano, Vicereine of Aspasia, and General Sir Ermino Dontarini, Commander-in-Chief of the Aspasian armed forces. The small group stood at the centre of the room, surrounded by various other dignitaries and officials that had dined with them, mingling between footmen offering drinks of cool white wine and water.

“It saddens me to admit we do not get many royal visitors to this far-flung part of the world, and your decision to visit the colony came as a surprise. A good surprise, of course,” Vestignano added quickly, smiling reassuringly.

Moa’s translator Manda Qvist worked as fast as she could, talking and listening at the same time was a tough skill to manage.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Moa replied when Manda had caught up. “I travel quite a lot and the question might be, why I didn’t stop by sooner? Anisora is an important ally and in this part of Gotha, we are practically neighbours.”

The Princess and the Viceroy stood in one of the reception rooms of the Viceroy’s Palace in the colony’s capital, Julicannia, on the north-west coast of the island. The palace was a dazzling white building built in the neoclassical style with marble pillars and slender windows, and despite doing its best to reflect the day’s sun, the suffocatingly muggy heat of the evening was permeating the palace. It was a good thing Moa had visited the region before, her frequent stays at Fisks and the Kakuri had prepared her for the choking blanket of moist heat. Her dress, actually a Kakuri product, was long, colourful and sleeveless, with a separate shrug or shawl covering her shoulders and arms. The pattern in white, purple and turquoise was however traditionally Vittmarker.

The interior of the reception room was lavishly decorated in deep reds, with a hybrid of styles and artwork ranging from conventional 75th century Anisoran furniture, to more ostentatious Auresian designs, and even large Kamuran prints on the walls. At one side of the room tall windows let in the fading evening light, as well as the residues of a breeze, and on the other stood various portraits, including numerous past viceroys of Aspasia, as well as a large painting of Emperor Marius III.

“Quite” replied Lord Vestignano with a smile. “We are indeed neighbours of sorts. Am I correct in understanding that you have spent a great deal of time in your Fisks outposts in recent years?”

“The stopover on my way here was my fifth visit in four years. I haven’t spent a great deal of time there though, a couple of weeks in total, perhaps. But disproportionately much compared to other states of our federation, yes.”

Moa hesitated if she should bring up her function as senator of the Kakuri people. Her conversational partner was probably aware of this already, so mentioning it might only lead the talks into an unwanted direction.

“And how do you find your colonial subjects?” Lord Vestignano asked the question quite bluntly. He wanted to get a sense of this Princess who took such a keen interest in her colonials. But Moa looked surprised at her translator.

“What do you think about them,” Manda added quickly.

That didn’t make matters any easier for Moa. She had been briefed on the different attitude that the Anisorans had towards the people living in their colonial holdings. But she wasn’t prepared for this mirrored question.

“Well, they surprised me,” she started improvising, in the hope that she could stop Manda in the case she expressed herself too undiplomatically. “They surprised all of us, actually. It is quite an achievement to continue living unnoticed by the settlers from Fisks for so long. The Fisks are thorough when it comes to matters of security and trade. And some of the native cultures have very interesting aspects of society.”

She couldn’t believe how many platitudes she was stacking in one answer. “I am looking forward to seeing some of the local cultures here as well, and how they interact with Anisoran rule.”

“I can imagine” said Lord Vestignano, “their discovery would come as a surprise; especially on such a small island! In Aspasia there are countless tribes that we have no contact with in the interior. Various attempts to contact them have been made, to set up taxation and prospect for resources to extract. We’re making progress, however. But as for the Aspasians themselves, the semi-civilised ones are largely an amicable people, if a little slow. The climate makes them lazy. But they are generally well-behaved, and grateful for Anisoran technology and patronage.”

It’s a good thing that Moa had to wait for a translation, without the possibility of interrupting halfway. She knew she was being tested by the Viceroy. But she was still in the phase of wanting to pass that test.

“The Fisks have done some attempts at setting up taxation, but when it comes to the coastal Chi, raking in 10% of a coconut and a fish was not worth the effort. The inland society is a different matter though. They waited for decades and then they reached out to us. It’s a small, but well developed group. Amicable, yes… but quite the opposite of slow. They might be an exception, we are relatively new at this.”

“Ah yes” Lord Vestignano interjected. “These are your Kakurians?”

“They are,” Moa replied, missing the slight mistake in the tribe’s name that Manda filtered out in her translation. “For example, they make their own paper, they have metal workshops, all things one would not expect from natives in this region. They’re... industrious… creative… but also difficult to understand.”

“It seems Your Highness is quite taken with them,” said Lord Vestignano with a smile. “It can indeed be surprising to learn that these people have equally as complex societies as Anarians. Many of the Aspasians here are just as well educated as Anarians, often speaking impeccable Pastanan. And I must admit, I do enjoy the local travelling poets, even if I can’t understand a word they say.”

“This is where our approaches might differ, mylord. I am able to understand the Kakuri poets. In their society, they write the local history. I thought it might be an advantage. As it turns out, it is. I was elected as their senator, so in true Mellanhand Orkanan style, my mandate came bottom-up. Vind blows in mysterious ways.”

“Ah, well I much admire your commitment to learning their tongue. I fear in Aspasia, the prospect of learning even one of the 50 plus languages would leave me at a disadvantage with the remaining 49. But, surely” Vesitgnano’s brow furrowed, “these Kakurians aren’t Orkanan?”

“Maybe they aren’t, but they are surely on track of becoming just that. People are reading the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ and they even had one of their historical leaders registered as an Orkanan Exemplar. Gacha might not be an Exemplar to you or me, but he is to them. They understand the basic principles and seem to be wanting to live according to those. It’s a process.”

“Certainly, Your Highness. It is only right that the sacred Scriptures be brought to all peoples of the world, and it is our duty, according to the Master Plan, to impart their wisdom onto our subjects.”

This is where the Pastanan and Mellanhand traditions in Orkanan were different. And among the followers of Mellanhand, Moa’s congregation of Fjällsta Stift was the most easy-going of them all. But she kept her cool, for the moment.

“It is easier to convey the all encompassing truths if someone is ready to absorb. We were presented an opportunity here, we didn’t have to pave a way nor make people susceptible. The opportunity came in an interesting packaging as well.”

“Forgive me, Your Highness. I do not quite understand.”

“I have had the opportunity to present some of the Kakuri culture during a lecture and demonstration in Pena, a couple of months ago. Their internal leadership is based on the ability to transfer current events into entertainment. As if the court’s composer, the historian and musician would be running the place. Very unusual, but also very intriguing.”

Moa certainly had seemed to have learned from her experience in Pena, where she had stacked quite a lot of diplomatic faux-pas while trying to present the Kakuri case. She was now keeping a safe distance, an observer’s perspective.

“Yes, I had heard about your visit” said Lord Vestignano. He had indeed heard much about it - and the ‘unusual’ demonstrations at the concert hall and university. Exhibiting the strange ways and cultures of colonial peoples was not uncommon in Anaria, with exhibitions of Aspasian art and music having been organised in Anisora. What Lord Vestignano could not approve of, however, was a member of an Anarian royal stim accompanying them and selling these newly discovered peoples as the equals of Anarians. The natives of Aspasia who had learned Pastanan, who venerate the Orkanan exemplars, and benefit from Anarian civilisation first hand had a much stronger claim to such status, but even they were not to be considered as such.

“The Kakurians are perhaps similar to the local oral poets called Tapawai” said Lord Vestignano. “They likewise form history and current affairs into entertainment. Your Highness must see one while you are in Aspasia.”

“I would love to, mylord. That is one of the main reasons to visit Aspasia, to learn more about our similarities and differences. That is why Her Highness Princess Sakayana invited me and the Baroness of Kakuri to Aspasia. It is however unfortunate that the Baroness was unable to join us, she really had been looking forward to the experience.”
Iunse Tunn, the federal steward at Fisks executive government, was cringing. Moa had lasted most of the evening, but now she had cracked. He raised his hand in order for Manda to stop translating, but Moa took his hand, indicating that this is something she wanted to have communicated.

Lord Vestignano looked momentarily confused as the translation was given, noticing Moa’s determination to have it translated. “Ah, I had not realised Princess Sakayana had extended such an invitation.” There was a coolness to his manner which hadn’t been there before. He had, in fact, been perfectly aware of the invitation, and it had been his decision to bar the Kakuri aristocrat from entering Aspasia. The sudden desire for a senior foreign royal to visit an outpost of a foreign empire like Aspasia was suspicious in and of itself, but the closeness between Princess Moa and these Kakuri had made Lord Vestignano distinctly uncomfortable. He heavily suspected Princess Moa was being manipulated by them, young and inexperienced as she was. But the fact that Princess Sakayana of all people had invited them, whose uncle had risen in rebellion against the Anisoran crown only 35 years ago, had provoked Lord Vestignano into requesting that the Tribunate for Colonial Affairs in Pena block any Kakuri entering the colony with Princess Moa. Rumour had it that she was rarely seen without at least one of them, and this filled Lord Vestignano with foreboding. “But it is indeed a shame,” he continued, “that the Baroness could not attend. No doubt she has important business elsewhere.” The Viceroy smiled, but his eyes narrowed, betraying his determination to make himself understood.

But Moa just took a sip of her excellent wine. She had made her point. Some day, the Kakuri would visit Aspasia to make their own assessment of how the Anisorans ran this outpost of Anarian civilisation. That would certainly happen some day, maybe next month, maybe next year, or even the next decade. Or maybe as soon as today.

Technically speaking, Byebye and Milltun had not entered Aspasia together with the Crown Princess in Julicannia. They had continued towards Taumakan, where the NTR-AB had made a second landing on Aspasian territory. Moa would visit Taumakan the day after tomorrow, Milltun and Byebye were already there in order to get briefed on Moa’s experiences. In the meantime, they tried to blend in. Not impossible in this cultural mash-up of Aspasian and Anisoran elements. But it was a challenge with Byebye being the one able to speak a decent version of Anisoran, although mixed with a lot of Auresian as well. Milltun’s language skills were much more limited, he could understand most, but had problems formulating sentences with more than three words. So he would be the mute one in this odd couple.

12-05-2019, 06:26 PM
Post: #2
RE: From Aspasia, with love
Taumakan, the culture shock

Byebye knew exactly where she had to go to, after arriving in Taumakan: the Vatavi mansion.

“Excuse me, but we got referred to Lord Vatavi. My master, Tonio Emondo, wishes to talk textile business with him.”

It was obvious that the Anisoran clerk had no idea how to handle this odd couple. The young woman clearly wasn’t from around the area, her accent was difficult to pinpoint and she didn’t speak any of the local languages. The man had not uttered a single word, and had a very unusual name. A very peculiar set-up.

“It seems that you are unfamiliar with Lord Emondo,” Byebye therefore continued. Milltun started gesturing. Not as a way of communicating, but as a part of roleplaying.

“My lord is sorry that he is unable to communicate directly, that is why he requires my services to set up trade. His family’s business is leading in the textile trade towards Talpei.”

The latter part was true, Emondo was part of the Anisoran textile business in the port concession in Vittmark. It was just that Milltun had no relation to them whatsoever.

“If Lord Vatavi wishes to contact us, we are staying at the Marcomanni Tavern,” Byebye concluded this seemingly meaningless conversation. But the message was not meant for the clerk, nor the lord Vatavi. It was the mansion’s local procurer who was supposed to pick it up.

Milltun and Byebye had just returned to the tavern when a man in his forties approached Byebye.

“Nenne-sama, how unexpected,” he half whispered in Kakuri.

“Shinai, Nokumo Nobono’s deep claw in the land of tomorrow, the tensho’s send their regards,” Byebye replied. “I need to get in eye contact reach with Durrum Mu-wa tomorrow, during the puppet theatre.”

Shinai frowned. Not about the blunt request he got. He was used to serving the ruling class of the Kakuri. But this was a tricky one.

“You need to be with the local ‘kizoku’ then... If you stand among the regular people, you will be too far back. We could try with the Pelayaran family, explain to them you are on a business trip and want to experience local culture. Is fabrics your story?”

Shinai referred to the introduction Byebye did at the Vatavi mansion.

“It is. I am Nihala.”

“Good choice…”

Nihala was one of the many regional languages, a smaller one confined to an island at the other side of Radhrian. A very slight chance anyone here would speak it, and it would explain why Byebye used Anisoran instead.

“And I need to stay close to him,” Byebye added, pointing towards Milltun who had no idea what the conversation was about.

The evening was closing in, a cool breeze bringing some relief from the intense heat of the day as the sun began to set behind the buildings that surrounded the square in central Taumakan. The city, the largest in Aspasia, was abuzz with activity. The central square was a canvas of the rich diversity which defined the colonial city: well-to-do Aspasians in Anisoran clothing strolled through the square, arms linked under parasols; Anisoran soldiers in their summer uniforms milled around smoking cigarettes; Aspasian coolies rushed to and fro carrying crates and sacks full of exotic foodstuffs; semi-naked children played next to well-tailored students of the local Orkanan school; Anisoran merchants closed the business of the day with wine and coffee; and groups of Aspasian men and women in traditional clothing conversed, laughed, argued, and embraced in equal measure throughout the packed square. All had assembled to see one of the most quintessentially Aspasian sights: a Tayalak shadow puppetry display.

Princess Moa, Iunse Tunn, and their translator Manda Qvist, sat in the front row of seats which had been carefully arranged in neat rows facing towards a large elaborate screen. Beside them sat their host Lady Luisa della Rolla-Meragno-Torviano, Governor of Taumakanu. The Governor was a middle-aged woman with sharp features, large brown eyes, and greying hair bound tightly beneath a large white hat. She was accompanied by her husband, a short man at least ten years her senior who was, despite the weather, wearing a dark suit with top hat; needless to say he was covered in sweat.

Behind them sat the plentitude of locals, Anisorans, and other foreigners who had come to see the show. As always in Aspasia, as in Anisora, the seating arrangements were organised along social lines, with Princess Moa sitting at the front as the guest of honour, besides the Governor. Behind them sat the rows of Anisoran colonial officials, military officers, merchants, soldiers, other Anarians, and their families. Behind them came the upper-class Aspasians, most of them dressed in Anarian clothing, although a number dressed in sumptuous traditional attire, often connoting royal or aristocratic connections. Behind them sat middle-class Aspasians, with again a mixture of attire, but included many educated professionals and respectable merchants in light summer suits and dresses. Behind even those, most without seats, stood and sat the large mass of working-class Aspasians. Many jostled for a good view, with children sitting on their parents’ shoulders trying to get a good view of the screen at the other end of the square. With the live band along the sides of the rows of chairs, the crowd was sure to hear the show, even if they couldn’t see the puppetry properly.

“The most wonderful thing about the puppetry, Your Highness,” said the Anisoran Governor to Princess Moa, her nasal voice betraying her aristocratic birth, “is that not a word is spoken throughout the whole performance. One need not understand a word of any of the local languages to appreciate the story.”

That remained to be seen, was the only thing Moa thought at the moment the translation was provided. She knew all too well that all theatre was deeply rooted in a cultural setting. A setting she hardly knew anything about, having only spent this day in Taumakan. Most of it indoors due to the persistent heat. Appreciating a story without any context was a tough challenge. But she would do her best.

“I certainly will appreciate the performance,” Moa replied, “but I am curious to see if I can follow any storyline.”

Her translation got lost in some commotion further down the square.

“Are the locals always this passionate about a puppet theatre performance?” Moa added while looking over her shoulder. Her eyes caught a familiar face in the crowd. Byebye… Moa had warned her to keep a low profile, but there she was, standing front row among the Aspasians. She had to suppress the urge to give a nod and looked back at her hosting duo a bit too quickly, maybe.

The Governor looked at Moa, assuming her actions reflected the novelty of the occasion. She knew that the Vittmarker colonies of Fisks were tiny in comparison to Aspasia, and she suspected that being amongst a huge crowd of natives like this was new to the princess.

“They are, for the most part” replied the Governor. “Although today’s performance is very well attended principally because of the puppet master - Dian he is named, which in Lazeh means candle, rather appropriately. He is particularly revered in Taumakanu and always draws a crowd. As you can see,” she gestured behind them to the seats beyond the Anisorans and other Anarians, “the practice appeals to all levels of Aspasian society.” As she looked around she caught a glimpse of an Aspasian aristocrat with whom she had conducted business that morning, and they nodded in greeting. The Governor also saw, sitting next to the Aspasian lord, a small woman with unusual facial features she had never seen before - it was Byebye. As Governor of Taumakanu, she was required to know all the leading citizens of the city and state - many of whom were sat in these rows, trying to catch the eye of the Governor. She had a good memory for the people she met at official receptions and audiences, but couldn’t place her. She considered the young woman for a moment before turning back around - she looked very young, she thought dismissively; she may well be a child of an aristocrat only recently presented to society.

As the Governor turned back around and before Princess Moa could reply, rhythmic drum beats began to sound all around, coming from the orchestra to either side of the seats. The tayalak puppet display was about to begin. A hush spread through the crowd as the drum beats increased in volume and speed before stopping dramatically, followed by a cacophony of flute and harp-like instrumentals.

The screen, already lit from behind by electric lighting, was then transformed from a white sheet into a medley of dark shadows, with mountains emerging, as if growing out of the ground, trees rising, clouds appearing, and birds flying across the sky. For regulars of these shows and the many local Aspasians who had grown up watching these displays, the style of the opening determined what sort of story was going to be shown. By showing the landscape grow and form in front of them, with mountains and trees rising high from the ground, the puppet master was signalling to his audience that this tale was set in the mythological age of heroes and gods, when the earth was young and newly grown. The clouds and trees faded away, leaving a lonely mountain top.

The puppet master, the Tayalako, mastering the effects of perspective and shadow foreshortening, brought the mountain to the foreground, with a lone figure appearing. The figure was exquisitely detailed, even in two dimensional shadow. The elaborate costume and headdress of the figure was conveyed through holes and slits in the puppet, letting light through as if suggesting gems, precious metals, and heavy cloth. As the scene changed the music changed with it, the subtle flutes taking precedence as the lone figure walked across the screen, high in the pretend mountains, legs and arms moving seamlessly.

Before reaching the other side of the screen another figure appeared, more humbly dressed. This figure approached the elaborately dressed hero slowly, head bowed, the music quietening, faint drum beats a suggestion of tension. The hero approached, pointing beyond him to the edge of the screen. The humble figure looked up, the music rising slightly as it gesticulated behind, before looking back down at the floor. The hero approached, touching the other figure’s arm, the music light, suggesting compassion. A moment of quiet descended before the music erupted, drum beats rising, as the humble figure transformed, growing in size to a great height above the hero, arms waving widely. The figure’s face appeared for the first time, it had huge teeth and was monstrous. The hero leapt back as the music rose yet again, a spear appearing from beneath his shadow robes.

A battle ensued, the music quickening, timed perfectly with every thrust of the hero’s spear and every lunge of the monster. The scene transformed as the ground beneath the figures rose, the mountain ridge reappearing, the figures decreasing in size. The battle continued on the ridge of the mountains, the monster pressing the hero down the hill with its attacks before the hero reposted, pushing the monster back over the summit. The furious back and forth continued, and every time the hero was on the retreat, the music quickened, increasing the tension, before rising in triumph as the hero struck blows at his enemy. The battle raged for a few minutes, spears and teeth flashing, before the hero struck the fatal blow at the heart of his enemy. The monster collapsed at the summit, falling down the mountain, the music a mixture of relief and triumph.The scene once again transformed, bringing the hero back to the foreground, the mountain retreating beneath his feet. The hero made a triumphant pose before raising his spear towards the sky, birds circling. The hero stood there for a moment before black clouds began circling, the music darkening with heavy drum beats simulating thunder. The hero shuddered under the circling birds and thunder. Somebody was displeased with the hero’s victory, but this was only the beginning of the tale…

The puppet display continued for another hour, with the hero triumphing over the many obstacles placed before him by malevolent gods and humans alike, until he assumed his mantle as king, sitting upon an elaborately decorated throne in the final scene. When the story came to an end, the music ended dramatically before the square erupted into deafening applause. A moment of silence elapsed before the hundreds of people assembled in the square turned to their neighbour to discuss the display, praise the puppet-master, or prepare to leave for home.

The Anisoran Governor Lady Rolla-Meragno-Torviano turned to her Vittmarker guests with a broad smile on her face. “And there we have it. I sincerely hope you enjoyed the performance, I know we did” she said, gesturing to her husband sat next to her.

“I really had no idea what to expect, to be honest,” replied Princess Moa, “but I surely was not expecting anything like this. This was amazing!” Moa was not faking her enthusiasm to please her hosts. She had been genuinely taken away by the performance.

“Oh I am pleased” replied the Governor, a genuine smile across her face. As Governor it was her responsibility to entertain her royal guest while she was in Taumakan, and she had been determined to impart a good impression on the young princess. She knew Anisoro-Vittmarker relations were of the utmost importance to her masters in Pena, and this evening’s entertainment seems to have gone done very well indeed.

“I have no idea who was fighting who and why, “Moa continued, “but the movements… so detailed… so precise… What do you say, Herr Tunn?”

“If there is something I learned today, it is that emotions are universal and can be carried in many different ways.”

Moa looked at the steward of Fisks. “I am a theatre loving man, Highness. It is something I miss since I was stationed at Carls Nybygge. There is nothing that comes even close to theatre there. This, today… it’s universal.”

“I had no idea you gave that up when you left Kopparbruk,” Moa said. “What about the Kakuri performances?”

Iunse Tunn laughed. “I am stationed at Fisks, not in the Eastern Crown Domain. I have never seen any Kakuri performance.”

The Governor waited patiently while the Vittmarkers conversed. She could see in the corner of her eye that a rather unsubtle group of people, including Anisorans, upper-class Aspasians, and other merchants, congregated at various points, clearly positioning themselves to ‘bump into’ the Governor when she left the square. Tonight, however, she had a good excuse to avoid the tedium of having the same conversation again and again before favours and requests were put to her: she had a royal Anarian guest this evening, whom she must keep entertained. A dinner with Princess Moa and a few other dignitaries might not be as tiresome as often was the case on evenings such as this. She was glad of the excuse.

“I must say,” said the Governor, “I think you were given a particularly accomplished display this evening - one of the best I’ve seen; and as you can imagine, I’ve seen rather a lot of them. To answer your question on who the principal character was, it depicted the adventures of Wayan. He is a most revered figure in Aspasia who, as you saw, was said to have become king of all Aspasia many thousands of years ago after defeating the manifestations of the god Guntur. This must have been the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen a production of Wayan’s adventures. Undoubtedly the best to date.”

Manda apologised for her appearance at the breakfast table. She had slept in, skipped breakfast and hastily thrown on some clothes in order to be able to perform her duties as a translator at the breakfast table where Moa and Fisks’ steward Iunse Tunn were being entertained by her hosts.

“I slept miserably due to the heat,” she explained in Anisoran as well. She continued in Wortsproke in a tone that suggested a continuation of her apologies towards the crown princess.

“It is an impossible task, being your only translator here and then double as messenger towards Byebye in the tavern after my duties here are done. I will get caught sneaking out or back in again if this continues.”

“Well, let’s wait until the next stop then,” Moa answered in a calming tone. “What did they have to say about their appearance on the square yesterday?”

“That it was the only way to establish contact. Milltun was able to hand over a note to Herr Tunn, who then could inform me where they were staying.”

“Let’s continue later,” Iunse Tunn, “the hosts are expecting conversation.”

“Can you tell them that I think you’re doing a wonderful job,” Moa continued, “we’re travelling with a small delegation and a lot of the tasks fall on you. It’s only human to get tired of those long days and then have difficulties to sleep in this climate.”

Signore Durante, Inspector General of the Aspasian colonial police, sat frowning at his desk. He was looking at a grainy photograph of a young woman with black hair, part of a report delivered to him by the Superintendent of Taumakanu Police, Signore D’Arcole.

“Do we know her name, Signore D’Arcole?” said Durante.

“Not yet, Sir” replied the superintendent. “We heavily suspect she is a member of the group known as the Kakuri - which the Viceroy’s Office had expressly banned from entering Aspasia. We’re reaching out to the Tribunate for Foreign Affairs to get an identification.”

Durante did not know why this specific group of natives had been barred from entering Aspasia, but a political decision like that wasn’t his business. “Does Princess Tovemor know that she is in Aspasia?” said Durante, using the formal name for Princess Moa.

“We can’t be sure, Sir. But this photograph was taken by one of our agents just outside the Marcomanni Tavern on Via Filipo Darvour.” D’Arcole produced another photograph from his folder and placed it on the Inspector General’s desk. “This is Manda Qvist, Princess Tovemor’s translator.”

There was a moment’s silence while Durante’s frown deepened. “I want you to send a copy of your report to Julicannia and the Viceroy’s Office. This is now of political importance, and will probably have to go back to Pena. In the meantime, I want all members of the Princess’ retinue followed if they divert from the official itinerary. And, of course, I want frequent reports on the activities of this Kakuri woman.”

“Very good, Sir. I’ll make the arrangements.”

12-06-2019, 08:51 PM
Post: #3
RE: From Aspasia, with love
Sapanya, the storyteller

The Anisoran Minister of Patakayu Ludovico Bernadino looked contentedly at the party now gathered in the airship’s gondola. Never in a million years would he have thought to be entertaining the crown princess of Vittmark and steward of Fisks on a visit when he first became minister of Pakatayu ten years before. He had travelled up to Taumakan to collect Princess Moa and escort her on her journey south to the Royal Palace in Sapanya, where she and her companions would stay with Sakayana, Princess and ruler of Pakatayu.

Moa was pretty pleased as well. The airship was cruising at about a mile above the landscape, which meant that the air temperature was about 10 degrees centigrade lower than at ground level at Taumakan.

“The bigger the land mass, the more demanding day temperatures become at this latitude,” Iunse Tunn had stated before their rather chaotic take-off. Air services to the southern states of Aspasia were very rare, not in the least due to the weather conditions. The higher the temperature, the less buoyancy an airship would have, which led to unreliable flying times and the decision to hold a ship at the port just in case they had to abandon the flying attempt. But now Moa and her party were high up in the air, she was all too happy to avoid the tropical heat for at least one day during her travels.

She was sitting there with a refreshing beverage, spiked with some fruits unknown to her and a hint of alcohol, probably for sanitary reasons.

“Could you ask His Excellency what it is I am drinking,” she instructed her translator for the trip, Manda Qvist. She hoped it would start some conversation during this long trip. She had thousands of questions and not everyone of her conversational partners had been sharing information in equal amounts.

“That, Your Highness, is called an ‘es duah,’” Bernadino replied with a smile, as Manda translated. He was dressed in a white suit, made of light, cool material, which set him apart from many of the colonial administrators Moa had seen in Julicannia and Taumakan. His dress and manner made him appear as someone who had stayed in this part of the world for a long time and knew its ways. “It’s a traditional drink from Taumakanu,” he continued, “although we Anisorans have adapted it slightly. We’ve replaced the traditional duah sap liqueur, which I can attest is extremely strong, with a watered-down white wine and sap mixture. But we’ve kept the duah fruit,” he said, gesturing to the small orange fruit pieces in his own glass.

“It’s delicious,” Moa replied. Not out of courtesy, she really enjoyed the drink. “Your Excellency,” she continued, “I have a blunt question. Your role as minister of Patakayu… I know what it stands for on paper, but could His Excellency elaborate on how this works in practical terms?”

Bernadino smiled. “I would be only too happy to, Your Highness. I, as Minister of Patakayu, serve at the pleasure of Her Serene Highness the Rallan. I am her principal adviser and attend to those matters of state that she and the colonial administration deem necessary. In that vein, I oversee and advise on numerous administrative and judicial activities, in the capital, at the Rallan’s estate, and right across the Principality of Pakatayu.”

It took Manda quite some time to translate. She was not used to the more formal language used by the higher echelons of Anisoran society. She had been selected for the job due to her connections to Fjällsta Stift, not primarily for her language skills.

“The administrative tasks, do they include population registration, taxation, trade volumes…” Moa wanted to dig a bit deeper. She knew that establishing an Anarian type of government and pacification belonged to the main tasks of the administration, but that seemed to be pretty well organised already.

“My role does indeed include those tasks, yes, Your Highness. Taxation and financial policy direction, including advising the Rallan and her other ministers on state expenditure are amongst my most frequent day-to-day duties. But I also attend to the local law and often dispense justice on behalf of the Rallan. I am also the principal contact between the Rallan and the Anisoran colonial administration, representing His August Imperial Majesty’s Government and their interests in Pakatayu. Some like to view my role akin to a Prime Minister, although my role is far more modest. I am a mere adviser, is all.” Bernadino’s description of his all-encompassing powers was perhaps an example of Anisoran understatement. In reality, he was the most powerful person in Pakatayu, behind only the Rallan herself.

“Local legislation is one of my main interests, Excellency,” said Moa. “We are in the process of incorporating an overseas entity, as you are aware of,” Moa stated the obvious. “I’m curious to know, how did Anisora decide on which local law to tolerate or integrate, and which key elements of the home land should be implemented in order to create a viable state government? It seems like a difficult balancing act.”

“That is a good question, Your Highness,” said Bernadino, “and is a rather difficult one to answer succinctly. The states of Aspasia are highly complex and each retain their own laws to varying extents. The Anisoran controlled states, ruled directly by the Crown, operate under more or less a unified law, with certain regions exempt for various, if I am being perfectly frank, obscure historical reasons which we administrations do not attempt to understand. But the principalities, those states ruled by native royalty, such as Pakatayu, all retain their own native laws. When the suzerainty relationship was first established with these states a number of centuries ago the laws were altered slightly in accordance with the colonial administrations desires at the time, but largely these laws remain in the hands of the respective Rallan and their ministers.”

Bernadino waited for Manda to catch up - he was explaining a rather confusing set up, after all. “If we take Pakatayu, for example, the state I have spent most of my time in Aspasia serving, the local laws are a mixture of Anarian imported laws and local legislative customs that go back centuries. But most of the Anarian, or should I say, Anisoran, laws that are implemented in Pakatayu are recent additions, incidentally implemented during my time in Pakatayu.” His modest nature again made this seem like nothing more than a coincidence, when it had in fact been himself who had implemented these laws.

“In Vittmark” Moa replied, “we basically only have the bottom-up approach when it comes to legislation. In our Mellanhand tradition, village law becomes regional law if it’s as good as universal; regional becomes national, etc. Our framework dates back to Imperial times, it has evolved over decades and centuries. That approach seems off when it comes to overseas territories. We don’t seem to share the same values, the same culture, and then this bottom-up process does not work. But we have zero experience in laying down the law, our federal framework, in such a different setting.”
Moa did not have any problems as such with how the Kakuri managed themselves by their own laws, but she tried to trigger a more imperial response that would give her some more perspective.

Bernadino looked at the Princess as the translation was given. He hadn’t known what to expect when he heard that this foreign Anarian princess was visiting the obscure state of Pakatayu - he had perhaps expected a young aristocrat looking for adventure and exotic experiences. But he hadn’t expected such a stream of questioning. It seemed she was generally interested in learning how to run an empire, Bernadino thought. He decided he liked this princess.

“You are of course correct, Your Highness” said Bernadino. “Such an Orkanan bottom-up system cannot work overseas. The cultural and legislative contexts are just too alien for an organic evolution of laws at an imperial level, at least in the formative years of a colony. When Anisora first started to colonise Aspasia there was a difficult tension between the utilitarian need to accept local laws and customs and the need to establish imperial legislative authority. One could argue that a form of legislative melding has occurred over the years, as I previously alluded to. Aspasia is, after all, home to a great many laws and customs, and if one was to walk across the borders of Pakatayu into the imperial settlements on the coast, one would be under a totally different set of laws - more Anisoran than Aspasian.”

“You will have to forgive my poor attempts at conveying the complexities of Aspasia, Your Highness. Ours is a system that has evolved over decades and even centuries. But ultimately, in the matter of law, there remains a necessity to impart aspects of Anarian legislation onto the population under our direct control. Numerous states, Pakatayu not included, I must add, have and had in the past the most draconian laws; laws which essentially reduced the population to a life of slavery, with little to no rights. When such blatant abuses are recognised, it is the moral and Vind-given responsibility of the imperial administration to intervene and put an end to such practices.”

“I might never get the subtleties of local law in Aspasia,” said Moa, “but His Excellency’s introduction will make it much easier for me to understand overseas rule as Anisora applies it. I prefer complex issues. We could also talk about the weather. The sun is shining, or it’s raining three months… End of discussion.” Moa looked to see if her attempt at border crossing humour went down well. If not, she could always blame her translator. But Bernadino laughed when he received the translation - he did like this Vittmarker princess.

Byebye and Milltun hurried their way to the port in eastern Taumakan. Shinai had arranged transport for them on a trimaran sailing along the coastal cities southwards with spices and incense. The next best thing when it came to long distance travel. An airship was out of the question, they would have to wait for days or even a week for the next one to arrive and they could not travel in the company of the crown princess. They would be a day or so delayed, but still arrive on time for an update. That is, if they could manage that last part between the port and Sapanya.

But they did not have to worry about that last part, so it seemed.

As the pair queued for the customs line before boarding the ship, an Anisoran official in a white uniform kept looking at them. He was trying to be subtle, but it became increasingly obvious to Byebye and Milltun that he was watching them, and nobody else. As the line decreased and it was their turn to produce their papers, Byebye could see the Anisoran in the corner of her eye.

“Papers, please” said the bored customs official in Anisoran.
Byebye handed over her own passport and that of Milltun. Both Vittmarker passports, one issued to Nenne Iuku, Lady of Ny Skiöldavik.

At seeing the Vittmarker passports the customs official perked up slightly, clearly recognising the names. They looked Byebye and Milltun up and down before glancing behind them.

“Sir, Miss, will you come with me, please?” A huge Anisoran police officer had tapped Milltun on the shoulder, gesturing away from the queue into an office building. Despite his polite tone, his dark face showed he meant business.

“Well, of course,” Byebye replied in Anisoran. “I hope this will not take too long, I am not sure our boat will wait for us, sir.”

“No” said the police officer darkly, with a discourteous smile, “I doubt it will.” He escorted the pair into the office, closing the door behind them. The room was small and very hot, and there was another Anisoran already waiting inside. He was a short man perhaps in his forties, wearing a police officer’s uniform. He gestured for the two to take a seat before asking their names and where they were travelling to.

“I am Nenne Juku, travelling in the companionship of Milltun Andersson. We are travelling south, exploring business opportunities.”

Byebye hoped that her Anisoran made some impression, but was also afraid it might be the wrong impression.

“Business opportunities” said the Anisoran police officer, clearly not believing them for a second. “And when and where did you enter Aspasia?”

“A couple of days ago, here in Taumakan, with the Vittmarker airship. If His Lordship would open our passports, there are stamps in it from when we arrived. There is a huge demand for cinnamon, coffee, cocoabeans…” Byebye continued.

The officer laughed. “Think you can get around me with flattery, do you? His Lordship indeed! Ha.” He took their passports checking the various pages. There was no doubt, he concluded, these were the two he had been told to arrest if they attempted to board a ship.

“It is the belief of His August Imperial Majesty’s Aspasian Constabulary that you are not telling the whole truth, Your Ladyship.” He laughed at the fained courtesy. Without saying another word he got up and left the room, leaving them alone.

“Red, blue,” Milltun asked with the few words in Anisoran he knew.

“Red,” Byebye replied. They were referring to some pre-arranged scenarios they had developed for an event like this. But apart from this, they did not exchange a word.

The police officer returned five minutes later, another officer following him, taller and in a darker and much more neatly kept police uniform.

The taller police officer turned to Byebye and Milltun and stared at them for a few moments. Then he said in a loud, officious voice. “In the name of the Viceroy and the power vested in him by His August Imperial Majesty, you are both under arrest. If you would come with me…” he gestured to the door where two more police officers could be seen waiting to escort them out.

“Arrested? Is there something we have done wrong?” Byebye asked.

“You are under arrest for illegally entering Aspasia and suspected espionage” came the reply. “You will be questioned back in Taumakan.” And with that he turned and gestured for the two other officers to escort them out.

They were taken outside and into a horse-drawn carriage, motorcars being few and mostly for the wealthy in an outpost of empire like Aspasia. The journey lasted about fifteen minutes before they arrived at what appeared to Byebye and Milltun as an administrative building. They entered the building at the back, away from the main street, and were escorted through numerous corridors before being led into a room with a table, chairs, and various potted plants swaying in the breeze from the open windows.

About ten minutes later the door opened and a well-dressed Anisoran man entered, and by his uniform Byebye and Milltun could tell he was a high ranking police officer. They both got up from their chairs and bowed slightly to greet him.

The officer looked momentarily confused by the greeting, but nodded back despite himself. “My name is Signore D’Arcole, I am Superintendent of the Taumakan Police. Can I get you some water or anything before we begin?” he asked, taking a seat. He spoke to Byebye, clearly knowing that she was the one that spoke Anisoran.

“Water would be nice, thank you.” she replied, and Signore D’Arcole clicked his fingers in the direction of a subordinate who scurried out. “Am I right that we will be missing our boat?”

“Indeed you are, Miss Juku.”

“Sir… what does it mean… esp… espi… I don’t know the word.”

“Espionage?” D’Arcole replied, his tone casual. “It means spying, Miss Juku. You are in Aspasia under false pretences.”

Byebye hesitated a second. False pretences was not the same as spying. But she stuck to the script.

“False pretensis… sorry, I don’t understand.”

“Miss Juku and Mr Andersson” he said looking at Milltun, “or should that be Lord Emondo? Is that not the alias you have been operating under since your arrival in Aspasia?” He turned back to Byebye, not expecting an answer from Milltun.

“If you want an answer from Milltun, we should get someone who knows Wortsproke,” Byebye replied evasively.

“Thank you for the recommendation, Miss Juku” D’Arcole said cooly. “A translator will be produced when a translator is required.” The fact was he didn’t have access to a Wortsproke translator and had no idea where he would get one from in this remote region of Altaia. “Now, to return, have you or have you not been operating under the alias of a Lord Emondo and his assistant?”

“We have used the name of Emondo to establish business contacts, yes.” There was a subtle difference between using a name and using an alias, but Byebye was looking how far her limited language skills would get her.

“For business. Of course” he said, his tone unemotional and unironic. It was a peculiar custom of Anisorans to not say what they mean, often to the genuine confusion of foreigners. “And are you or are you not a Kakuri native?” At that moment the door opened and the police officer returned with two glasses of water, placing them on the table before Byebye and Milltun.

“I am a citizen of Vittmark and I assume I will be treated as such. Milltun Andersson belongs to Fjällsta Stift, as you can see in his pass, and me as well. And yes, I am part of the Kakuri nation.” She reached for the glass, a motion copied by Milltun.

“And are you or are you not aware that all members of the Kakuri people are not permitted to enter Aspasia?”

“Not permitted? But I could enter without a problem, a couple of days ago… I did not know.”

He produced the passport she had handed over to the customs official at the docks. “This is your Vittmarker passport, yes? This clearly states here that you were born in the Eastern Crown Domain, otherwise known as Fisks, and your name is Miss Nenne Juku. Which I have confirmed by the customs officials is a Kakuri name. This passport could not have been used to enter Aspasia. We know you must have used a false passport. Do you deny it?”

“Sir, you are accusing me of a criminal act. I am afraid that it is impossible for me, right now, right here, to answer your question.”

“And why is that?” asked Signore D’Arcole.

“You are holding my passport. Every time I cross a border, it is registered there. I have been in Vittmark, twice. Made stops in The Bind, Häverist colonies. Somewhere in there, it must be registered that I entered Taumakan. If it’s not there, I don’t know what happened. I handed it over when I arrived.”

Signore D’Arcole perused the pages of the passport, although he already knew no entry mark into Aspasia was there. Her open acknowledgement that she had travelled to the Bind and the Häverist colonies to the north did not go unnoticed by D’Arcole. That admission would make things easier later on, he thought.

“All entrants into Aspasia get their passport stamped” D’Arcole said. “Yours has not been stamped. It therefore seems a perfectly reasonable assumption to make that this passport was not presented at the border. Whereas, Mr Andersson.” He produced Milltun’s passport. “His passport is stamped, clearly. But perhaps the customs official merely forgot to mark yours, but remembered to mark Mr Andersson’s?”

“Sir… are you asking me what the officers forgot to do? That is even more hard to answer… I don’t know.”

“I am saying, Miss Juku, that I do not believe you.”

“If Milltun’s pass is stamped, why is he here?”

“Mr Andersson is here under the aiding and abetting clause of the Counter Espionage Act of 7549. If you arrived illegally in Aspasia, it is my fear that your motives for entering Aspasia were and are malevolent in nature.”

Byebye didn’t understand entirely. She just tried to repeat what D’Arcole had said, hoping she would get the point.

“If I arrived… illegally… Sir, if I would be here illegal, then why did I show my pass today? If I would be here illegal… I would have been on that boat.”

“It is not my job to understand your thought-processes. My job is to enforce the law. And it is the belief of His August Imperial Majesty’s Aspasian constabulary that you have broken it - knowingly and with malevolent intent.”

“Belief… Law… Not the same,” Byebye tried.

D’Arcole’s face remained passive. “Perhaps you would prefer the word ‘pronouncement’? Or ‘judgement’? Either way, you will be held in detention until such a time as a decision on your case has been reached by the lawful authorities of this land.”

Byebye leaned back, her arms crossed, now looking very angry. “Your men forgot stamp in pass, I go to jail. And Milltun too. That’s… injustice… You have not told me what I have done that is wrong, just that you don’t believe me. I would like you to contact an embassy.”

“You have been arrested on suspicion of espionage. Of willfully entering Aspasia illegally for the express purpose of aforementioned espionage. The appropriate authorities have and will be contacted, fear not Miss Juku. What you may very well call injustice, we call due procedure to ensure the security of the state.”

Byebye didn’t get half of what he said. “Security of the state,” she repeated. She slowly got up and put her index finger on the passport in front of D’Arcole. “I am from Vittmark. Vittmark and Anisora… are friends. You and I… friends… I am not a threat to anyone in Aspasia. I am here to learn… find trade… if you call that spying… you not a good friend.” She shook her head and sat down in the same defensive position, arms crossed, head held high.

“Whether you are or are not a friend to Anisora remains to be seen, Miss Juku.”

Princess Sakayana, Rallan of Pakatayu, was not a tall woman, but she stood with the self-assured air only royalty can confer. She was, nevertheless, ill at ease in the company of her young Vittmarker companion, Princess Moa. Unused to entertaining even Anisoran royalty in her rural ancestral seat, the Vittmarker’s visit was both exciting and politically dangerous, with Sakyana trying her best to hide her uncertainty.

Wearing a light dress of deep blue and a hat to keep the hot sun’s rays off her face, she walked alongside Princess Moa and her translator Manda through the enclosed gardens of her palace. With the neatly kept hedges and brightly coloured flower beds, the garden smelt like any botanical garden in Anaria.

“The palace” said Princess Sakayana in educated Anisoran, “was built by my grandfather in the 7470s. So over one hundred years ago, now.” She mulled on that for a second, not quite believing it herself. “These gardens were added by my uncle, however. They are in the Medio style, as you can see.” She gestured to the colonnades and covered walkways that surrounded the laws and flowerbeds.

Princess Moa had no real eye for the Medio style of the place, she was simply admiring the gardens as they were: splendid.

“I must extend my compliments to everyone involved in this. A well designed and constructed building will last for decades, even centuries, with minimal attention. But a garden needs constant work… It is pleasant to see, it smells lovely… even if I don’t recognize most of the scents. Working on this will give Vind valuable experiences in how we interpret and treat Its creations.”

She was a bit unsure if she could use her hands in this experience. “And I mean everyone involved in this, starting with your uncle.”

Sakayana tensed slightly at the pointed mention of her uncle. She already regretted bringing his name up and was unsure what Moa wanted from her from this visit. Was she complimenting her uncle knowingly, she wondered? She knew the Anisorans would be watching this visit with interest, and although she maintained a good relationship with the Anisoran throne, she knew her uncle’s rebellion was still very fresh to the Anisoran colonial officials. Nevertheless, she smiled warmly. “I thank you for your kind words, Your Highness. It pleases me that you and your God enjoy our gardens so.”

“Creating and maintaining a garden is one of the most sacred duties of an Orkanan,” Moa continued. “The heart of the Orkanan Realm, now 2000 years behind us, was a huge arboretum, a recreation of the diversity of the world as they knew it back then, with botanical gardens, animals… everything. That tradition lives on in Orkanan today, and I can see that tradition here, in these palace gardens as well.”

But Moa had noticed the use of the word ‘your God’ by Sakayana. There was a bit of a mismatch here. She was unsure if she should address it. On the other hand, if she didn’t, what had been the purpose of travelling all the way up here?

“Could Her Highness elaborate, is there a typical philosophy behind the garden, a concept that is different from the Medio tradition, or our Mellanhand tradition?”

“I would be only too happy to” said Sakayana, enjoying the exchange of cultural traditions. “The layout of the garden was chosen primarily for aesthetic purposes, in imitation of popular styles in Anisora and Anaria at the time. As such the garden at first glance conforms to Orkanan traditions, as you say. However, if you look at the base of every other column,“ she pointed to the nearest column, “there are small stone symbols.” The symbol she pointed at was in the shape of a triangle with a face at the centre, but Moa could see many different styles and designs now that they had been pointed out. “Each symbol celebrates and remembers our ancestors and their spirits that linger in the world. At the base of all Tamahuna buildings you will see these symbols, showing us that all foundations are built on those who have come before and what they have left behind. We followers of Tamahuna venerate the wisdom of our ancestors and build on their teachings.”

Ancestral worship. This got Moa triggered.

“Do these wisdoms make it to the next generation in an oral tradition, or by trade, or are there even written accounts? In an Orkanan tradition, we value the written word, because it seems more absolute. But there seems to be nothing stronger than a master teaching an apprentice to develop and apply new skills, often without written words.”

In the meantime, Moa was looking for symbols that might look familiar, patterns that also could be present with the Kakuri, hundreds of miles away.

“Traditionally, Aspasians have more faith in oral transmission of knowledge than the written word. This is largely down to the poor literacy rate in many parts of the land - but this is changing. The Anisorans have brought many libraries and much Anarian knowledge to this island, and many have benefited from it - including myself.” While Sakayana believed what she was saying, valuing her Anarian education very highly, she felt it necessary to highlight the positive impact her colonial masters had on Aspasia. Since assuming the throne as a young girl after her uncle’s failed rebellion, praising the Anisorans came naturally to her given the political context.

“We seem to have landed in a similar process with a local culture on Fisks, the Kakuri people. You have met some of them in Pena. I am looking into the more long term effects of adding Orkanan culture to their lifestyle. Some Orkanan clergy urge us not to interfere and let these people do their own things, since there are more ways to contribute to Vind’s master plan. But on the other hand, the uniqueness does not disappear when introducing Anarian culture so it seems.”

But before the entire translation was delivered, Moa spotted something. “An eye,” she pointed at one of the stone symbols. “That must be an eye… Does it refer to a certain person, or a family, or maybe a virtue, an event…”

Sakayana was taken aback slightly by the enthusiasm and the questioning, but she was pleased her royal guest was taking an interest in her local culture. She looked more carefully at the symbol Moa was pointing to. “The symbols have myriad meanings and often refer to different things depending on where you are in Aspasia, who carved it, or who is looking at it. For me, that eye symbol is associated with parenthood and wisdom. A parent must always watch over their children. And so must our ancestors - and thus it also stands for wisdom. It could therefore refer to the builder’s parents, or perhaps my own ancestors. But there are many other possibilities.”

“In this case,” Moa continued, “they eye is looking at me. A guest with an unfamiliar background for this particular region. That is today’s explanation. But wisdom… that is universal. I also heard about visionary, looking ahead.”

“Indeed, it also carries that meaning. The all-seeing eye can look both backwards and forwards, and the ancestors we venerate are said to gain foresight. Many Tamahuna followers put great belief in priests’ abilities to channel the power of the ancestors to look forward.” She hesitated for a moment before continuing. “But I do not place much faith on those priests’ claims.” She had seen many priests travel to poor villages, exacting money from peasants to foretell the future. Sakayana considered it just a party trick the earn the priests extra money.

“Channel the power of ancestors… that sounds interesting. I would not consider that impossible. But would it be rude to say that it is more difficult to understand why our ancestors would know anything about the future? They are from our past and… channeling their power… that would bring them up to the now. The future… that is a different thing. I’d rather rely on an experienced person who is still alive. That way I won’t have to second guess through a channelling priest. I am sorry if that sounded blasphemous…”

Sakayana smiled reassuringly. “You are not a follower of Tamahuna and should not concern yourself with what is or is not blasphemous. Your questions do you credit, Your Highness. You ask what ancestors could know about the future, being as they are from the past. But in the past, do we not also see the future? Does history not repeat itself a thousand times in but one lifetime? In Tamahuna we believe in the reincarnation of the spirit, of a circle of life that is born, lives, dies, and is born again forevermore. If life is a circle, there is no beginning and end - so the future is also the past. But we are reaching the realms of Tamahuna theology now.” Sakayana laughed, the first sign she had given of relaxing.

“I see…” Moa said. “Maybe I should study Tamahuna more before I make any more statements or interpretations. Then I should let go of my own perspective, and maybe this occasion is not the right moment to do so. Are there any more… abstract symbols? Like from an ancient writing system.”

“I would be happy to provide Her Highness with some books on the subject, if she was interested in learning more of Tamahuna. Although, I fear, they will only be in Pastanan or Anisoran.” She turned back to the columns. “This one.” She gestured to a stone symbol. Moa looked at it from all angles, trying to see if it somehow fitted with anything from the Kakuri writing system. Of course, it didn’t.

“Yes, that one is much more difficult to interpret than an eye, especially for me. This might sound strange to Her Highness, but sometimes I need to be reminded that there is a lot I still need to learn, and a lot I will never completely understand.”

Now it was Moa’s time to hesitate. She decided to wait, patiently. Her father and step mother had accused her of looking for patterns when there weren’t any. But the Kakuri legend of a disastrous flood, dating back 400-500 years, had caught her imagination. If this was a historical event, then the oral tradition of places like Aspasia’s east coast and Bowersland would show a similar disaster happening.

“That is a liberating attitude to have, Your Highness. As the Pastanan philosopher Teronius said, ‘to know you know nothing is the height of wisdom’. But your questions are good ones. May I ask, Your Highness… is there something you are looking for in these symbols?”

Moa felt that she had been caught in the act. There was no way back now.

“As Her Highness is aware, I have been given the task of governor of the Eastern Crown Domains, the area where the Kakuri people are living. They call themselves ‘the isolated people’. But a culture as rich as theirs can’t be an isolated event. They must have relations to some other cultures around the Julian Sea. It’s just that I haven’t been able to find one yet. What I did find is an interesting meeting of Tamahuna and Orkanan in the Pastanan tradition, in these gardens. That might be more valuable than what I am trying to find, because it gives me hope for two cultures to co-exist and remain unique at the same time.”

Sakayana looked at Moa, realising how young she was. Her connection to the Kakuri people was well known. Sakayana had only heard about the decision to ban the entrance of Kakuri into Aspasia a few days before, it taking time for news to travel this far south - indeed the news of Nenne’s arrest had not yet reached Sakayana, though it had reached her Anisoran advisor Bernadino. It put her in a very difficult position, as she had ‘officially’ invited Moa and the Baroness of Kakuri to her palace, even if Moa had invited herself as much as the other way around. With the decision totally out of her control, Sakayana felt extremely awkward now. Deciding to avoid the issue directly, she said “Aspasians are a trading people and so have connections to all peoples and societies in the Julian Sea. While I unfortunately do not know of any direct connections, I am sure they exist if… umm…”, she could not avoid saying their name, “the Kakuri have been open at some point in their history.”

Moa noticed the awkwardness of her answer even without the translation.

“Your Highness… I am thanking you for the opportunity to see this place, your realm, in reality and with such a pleasant host. Next time, the Baroness of Kakuri hopes she will be able to attend. I understand that my visit has created… waves… even for Her Highness. My apologies for that. Circumstances will be different with the next opportunity, or there will not be a next opportunity. Both you and I are subject to greater powers. I just treasure this moment.”

“I am only too happy to host Your Highness” replied Sakayana, curtsying to Moa. “It is truly the deepest of honours to welcome you to my country and my kingdom, and I in turn thank you sincerely for your visit.” She paused for a moment before deciding to continue. “I am sorry the Baroness was unable to attend, also. However, I hope you will be equipped with many stories to tell her upon your return to Vittmark. You are continuing the Aspasian oral tradition now.” Sakayana smiled genuinely but hoped she masked her uncertainty. In reality she was extremely nervous about the political ramifications of the princess’ visit on her relationship with the Anisoran crown. She had affirmed her loyalty to the Emperor throughout her life, and had worked hard to show that her uncle’s treason was not her own. The reaction of the Anisorans to her ‘invitation’ to Moa and the Kakuri had caused Sakayana great concern, and she only hoped the visit would not create any further complications. Little did she know what was brewing to the north in Taumakan.

12-08-2019, 03:15 PM
Post: #4
RE: From Aspasia, with love
Pena, the diplomatic incident

“Signora Tribune, we’ve had a telegram from Aspasia.”

Giuliana Nicotera-Sarno, the Tribune for the Colonies, sat at her desk in her Pena office. She pushed aside a report she had been reading and looked up at her undersecretary. He was a man of middle-age, with a neatly trimmed beard and a large protruding nose, and spoke with a well-to-do Pastanan accent.

“Yes, and?” said the Tribune.

“Two foreigners were arrested trying to leave Taumakan; one Vittmarker by the name of Milltun Andersson, the other a Shangti native by the name of Nenne Juku. The girl is a Kakuri - the group of colonials Princess Moa of Vittmark is never seen without. It seems she cannot bear to be apart from them, despite the Viceroy’s ban on their entrance to Aspasia.” The distinction given to Byebye as a non-Vittmarker was not accidental. The decision to grant the Kakuri statehood had been met with outrage by many in Anaria, with many of the most vocal critics here in the Anisoran colonial office; indeed many did not acknowledge the decision as legitimate at all.

“They were attempting to board a ship south to Pakatayu. It seems they have been shadowing Princess Moa, with our agents seeing the Princess’s translator meet with them under the cover of darkness. It seems that Her Highness is well aware of their location and has made contact at least once during her time in Taumakan. The local police put an agent onto the Kakuri and the Vittmarker Andersson, who may be acting as her bodyguard, and arrested them both at the port. They were evidently anticipating Princess Moa’s imminent departure for Pakatayu and were trying to follow her there, potentially to lay the groundwork for her arrival.”

“The groundwork?” said the Tribune. “Are you seriously suggesting that the Princess is trying to ferment unrest in Pakatayu? Just colonial paranoia, surely?”

“The Kakuri did enter Aspasia illegally, Signora Tribune. And it has been confirmed that she has travelled to not only the Häverist colonies of New Habsburg, but also The Bind.”

The Tribune’s eyebrows raised at that. “The Bind? Wolgos savages and Häverists. How was this confirmed?”

“By her own admission, Signora Tribune. She openly admitted to it during her initial questioning, and her passport confirms it.”

“I see.” The Tribune frowned. This admission alone could be enough to condemn her. Häverist connections are one thing - but Wolgos? And the two in combination spell a damning mark against her and the Vittmarkers. “Do we have anything on what she did when she was there? She could have just been passing through on her way south.”

“That is of course likely, Signora Tribune. But there is no way of telling at this stage. Nevertheless, the Aspasian police seem to be convinced they have a case against her. She entered Aspasia illegally, seemingly under false pretences, and has been using an alias while in Taumakan to avoid detection. We cannot be sure whether she truly had intentions to ferment anti-Anisoran sentiment in Pakatayu, but one must consider the peculiarities of the whole affair.”

“Princess Moa is in Aspasia at the invitation of Princess Sakayana, and while she has given every indication of being loyal to the Crown, one can never be too certain in matters such as these. Many of her people remember her uncle’s rebellion - it is still well within living memory and potentially ripe for exploitation, should someone wish to.”

“Indeed” replied the Tribune. “And that decision to grant those Kakuri statehood in the Vittmarker Federation. We are dealing with people with dangerously naive ideas. Well…” the Tribune paused. “One could assume they were naive prior to the discovery of a foreign agent on Anisoran territory. But” she said, shaking her head, “I am struggling to believe that Vittmark would genuinely seek to undermine Anisora. They stand to gain so much from our friendship, and indeed they already have. Many have described Anisora as Vittmark’s most important ally. It makes no sense.”

“Indeed, Signora Tribune. The entire situation is seemingly contradictory, but only if one assumes these Kakuri are under the control of the Vittmarker government. It is highly probable that these Kakuri are operating independently, with an agenda unknown to the Vittmarkers.”

“That is indeed a possibility. But you said so yourself, Princess Moa was in contact with them. She knew they were there and was communicating with them. They were shadowing her.”

“During Princess Moa’s visit to Anisora last year” said the undersecretary, “it was obvious the Princess’s perception of these Kakuri is clouded by fondness. She is very young, after all. After the visit the Tribunate for Foreign Affairs routinely collected reports, with certain people concluding that there was a high likelihood that the Princess was being manipulated by the Kakuri. We must acknowledge the rapid rise in the Kakuri’s fortunes; from unknown natives to fully-fledged members of the Vittmarker Federation in a matter of years.”

“It would of course be outrageous to suggest a Crown Princess would be orchestrating such activities knowingly. That is surely never in question.”

“Of course, Signora Tribune” said the undersecretary, his face clearly showing a momentary fear that his words could have been construed as such.

“We must go about this delicately” continued the Tribune. “If the Princess is being manipulated by these people it is highly likely that the Vittmarkers don’t know. Otherwise it would be assumed they would put a stop to it - for the sake of their own Princess, never mind the political ramifications on the Anisoro-Vittmarker relationship.”

“Indeed, Signora Tribune. Shall I contact the Tribunate for Foreign Affairs?”

“Yes. He will want to summon the Vittmarker ambassador for an explanation to all of this. And I will inform my father, he will want to know of this development. I need to talk to him on another matter regardless.”

“Very good, Signora Tribune.”

“Signore Ambassador, thank you for coming” said Lord Valiano, the Anisoran Tribune for Foreign Affairs, gesturing for the ambassador to take a seat. “I’m sure you are aware of the reason why you have been asked here. On behalf of His August Imperial Majesty’s Government I demand an explanation as to the presence of a Kakuri in the Anisoran territory of Aspasia. The Tribunate for Colonial Affairs communicated the desire for no Kakuri to attend Princess Tovemor on her visit, did it not?”

Ärlof av Träskogen, the Vittmarker ambassador, sat down at the other side of the table in the company of two embassy clerks.
“First of all, mylord, there is no reason to demand an explanation. The federal government of Vittmark is willing to provide all the necessary information.”

He opened a briefcase and took out some paperwork.
“We have tried to confirm the information your Tribunate for Colonial Affairs has shared with our Foreign Department. That is however difficult, since we have not been able to meet the two people the Anisoran authorities have in custody. But based on the information we have received…”

He moved a piece of paper across the table.

“It is very well possible that the man you have arrested indeed is Milltun Andersson. He has been travelling towards Fisks’ capital Carls Nybygge recently and has been reported on board the same vessel that brought Her Grace to Julicannia. We do not know about his current whereabouts. Assuming we can confirm his identity soon… Milltun Andersson is registered at Fjällsta Stift. He is currently in the services of the federal mail, stationed in Talpå. We don’t know if his travels to Fisks were a part of his occupation, we are looking into that. Fjällsta Stift has committed itself to provide all the information available in their registries, as soon as we have been able to confirm his identity.”

He then got out the next set of paperwork.

“Then to the other person involved… Of the about 5000 people registered at Kakuri Stift, only a dozen or so have valid travel documents. These people belong to the Kakuri leadership or have assignments close to it. If the Tribunate for Colonial Affairs reports that the person in custody speaks Anisoran, then the chances are pretty big that we indeed are dealing with Nenne Juku. Despite her young age, she has been a part of the Kakuri executive government, an assignment she withdrew from only recently, a couple of months ago. I can inform his lordship that Nenne Juku has visited Vittmark twice during the last few years. During her most recent visit she has registered an Orkanan Examplar in Grönkulla. She was a guest of Her Majesty herself, who has expressed her concerns about the well-being of Nenne Juku. We know her to be quite introverted, intelligent and absolutely loyal to The Crown. Her Majesty herself awarded her the title of ‘lady’. It seems very out-of-character if she would be involved in malevolent activities.”

“We have not been able yet to assert if and when Nenne Juku has left the Eastern Crown Domains and - if she would have travelled to Taumakan - by which means of transport. We are working on establishing that. But if I interpret your information correctly, she has been arrested in the ports while trying to embark on a vessel. That in itself is proof that she is not travelling together with Princess Tovemor. To that extent, Her Grace’s visit is taking place under the exact prerequisites the Anisoran government has dictated. However, the clear instructions, which the Vittmarker government has followed, regarded Her Grace’s visit only. We have not interpreted your instructions as a complete and indefinite ban on Vittmarker citizens registered at Kakuri Stift. The few Kakuri that have a Vittmarker passport all have earned that privilege to be able to show their Vittmarker nationality abroad. It would be a serious matter if certain Vittmarker citizens would get banned from travel based solely on their place of birth.”

“I have with me a statement from the highest ranking Kakuri official in Östvallen, Yuma Fukai MP. She clearly states that the Kakuri leadership has no intention to interfere with any society or government outside the Eastern Crown Domain. As a member state of Vittmark, the Kakuri fully comply with the foreign policies of the federal government.”

“All of this is just a preliminary report. The federal government would like to use this opportunity to assess any information gaps your government wants to see filled. But also, our government has asked me to arrange a meeting between federal representatives and the two Vittmarker citizens that have been arrested in Aspasia.”

He then looked at his clerks. “Did I leave out anything,” he asked them. They both shook their heads.

“I thank you for the report, Signore Ambassador” said Lord Valiano, his diplomatic courtesy as impeccable as ever. “However, it seems there are still many information gaps we require filling, as you say. You state that the Kakuri girl and Princess Tovemor were not travelling together. We require to know whether Her Highness is aware of this Kakuri’s illegal presence in Aspasia.”

Ärlof leaned forward. “Her Grace only answers to Her Majesty, and Her Majesty only to Vind. It is possible to ask her, but she is in no way obliged to provide us an answer. On top of that, she is still en route.”

The ambassador was showing signs of irritation now. “The federal government objects to the use of the phrasing ‘illegal presence’. It lacks legal framework, since she is a citizen of Vittmark, and she clearly was not travelling with Her Grace, as instructed.”

“‘Lacks legal framework?’” replied Lord Valinao, a frown on his face. “Forgive me, Signore Ambassador, but I am struggling to comprehend your argument. Her presence in Aspasia is an illegal one because the Viceroy of Aspasia, the representative of His August Imperial Majesty, and the Tribune for Colonial Affairs, answerable to and granted power by His August Imperial Majesty’s Government, both upheld their command that no Kakuri should enter Aspasia. I hope you are not suggesting that His August Imperial Majesty, His Viceroy, and His Government are not entitled to decide who shall enter Anisoran territory? That their direction constitutes a lack of ‘legal framework’?”

One of the clerks whispered something in a thick Ådalish accent.
“No Kakuri should enter Aspasia? Is that what you meant with the instructions…” the ambassador enquired. The other clerk started going through his papers, reading intensively and then shrugged.

“It seems that this somehow got lost in the communication between Aspasia, our foreign offices and our instructions to Her Grace. Those instructions came very late. If Her Grace would not have been delayed due to engine problems, she would already have been on her way towards Aspasia in the company of the Baroness Urashinu of Kakuri, as originally planned. The invitation was extended to Her Grace as well as the Baroness Urashinu.”

The other clerk tapped the ambassador on the shoulder.

“Ah right, illegal to enter… since the Aspasian authorities have not been able to determine how and when she arrived, there is even a possibility that she already was in Taumakan, and therefore not entered illegally. The federal government of Vittmark is extremely displeased with banning a certain part of their citizens solely based on their place of birth.”

“I struggle to see how such a command could have been lost in communication,” said Lord Valiano. “A decision was communicated by the lawful government of the Anisoran Empire and the imperial representative that members of the Kakuri people would not be permitted entry. And while it grieves me to note that your government feels displeased, Signore Ambassador, it remains the legal right for the government and imperial power to decide whether somebody, anybody, can enter their sovereign territory. The incident we are discussing only confirms the wisdom of that decision, for the personage in question has not only admitted to entering Aspasia after the decision was made, she has also been arrested on charges of espionage. The security of the state is the paramount responsibility of government, would you not agree?”

“I completely agree. I therefore fail to see the logic in how one single Kakuri girl is posing a threat to state security, while supplying naval vessels to Arsas is not considered a risk at all. But this seems to have evolved into a political discussion, not an exchange of information. As my government sees it, there is a civil way to deal with this issue, or the imperial way. Based on your statement, we fear that the Kakuri you have arrested will not be trialled fairly. We therefore request her to be released into our custody as soon as possible. That is the civilised way.”

Lord Valiano sat staring at the ambassador for a few moments. The rapidity with which he concluded a fair trial will not be held made Valiano certain they were hiding something. The ambassador was clearly very ruffled, and Valiano’s diplomatic experience told him that there was more to this than it appeared.

“Signore Ambassador, if we are discussing the civil way to continue discussions, I would advise not mentioning issues that are irrelevant to the matter at hand - particularly ones that may cause offence to Vittmark’s staunchest ally.” He was indicating that the reference to the Arsas deal was not appreciated, and would threaten to deteriorate not only the ongoing discussions but the Anisoran-Vittmarker relationship if it continued. “I furthermore regret your hasty conclusion that the Kakuri girl will not have a fair trial. I struggle to recall any indication I or my Government has given to suggest such an outcome. But clearly you require more information from us for you to take our displeasure seriously. Very well. Our agents discovered that Her Highness Princess Tovemor has been in indirect contact with the Kakuri, through the medium of her translator,” he looked down at his report for added effect even though he knew the name, “a Signora Manda Qvist.” He stopped, staring at the ambassador cooly, waiting for his reply.

Without blinking his eyes, Ärlof provided it. “I was not supposed to give this information before we had established that you indeed have Milltun Andersson in custody. But Fjällsta Stift has already provided us with the information that Manda Qvist and Milltun Andersson served in the same unit of the Fjällsta Affirmation. I do not know if his Excellency is familiar with the Affirmation, but it is Fjällsta Stifts own internal policing force. It still has some paramilitary tendencies. So Milltun and Manda know each other. They travelled to Fisks on the same airship. Of course they would want to meet each other in an exotic place like Taumakan. The thing is, you are only seeing the things that you want to see. Illegal entrance. Espionage. There might be completely different reasons behind their presence and their meetings. We simply don’t know. We have no idea why Nenne was in Taumakan in the presence of Milltun. They simply might have met on Fisks and went on an adventure together, that’s what young people tend to do. Or Milltun could be on an assignment from the postal service, establishing contacts for traders from Talpå. Or all of the above. That’s what our government means with filling information gaps.”

“All very plausible scenarios” said Valiano. “And that is the point of these discussions. To establish why this scenario has occurred. And despite your rather unflattering assessment of the Anisoran legal system, no sentence has yet been passed. Facts are still to be established. That is the normal procedure here in Anisora, especially when matters of state security are at hand. When the state perceives its security is under threat no risk should be taken. I am sure your masters in Östvallen would agree. That is the first lesson of statecraft. But when somebody has entered sovereign territory illegally, has passport stamps in places such as New Habsburg and the Bind, and is travelling under false pretences to an area of sensitivity to the state, should precautions not be taken to ensure the Empire’s security? From our perspective this all appears most irregular, but perhaps we are overreacting? Perhaps we should take the security of our Empire less seriously?” It was the first indication that Valiano had given of his growing frustration at the failure of the Vittmarkers to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

“Yes, we finally agree on something, and that is that you are overreacting. I can understand that Aspasian and Anisoran authorities want to know exactly what is happening here, and so does the government of Vittmark. But you have arrested them for espionage. You know what we would have done in this situation? Picked them up from the street, moved them away, creating some distance and done some investigation, putting them under house arrest or in custody. If a single Kakuri girl and a mail delivery guy from Talpå are considered the largest threat to law and order in Aspasia, then there is something wrong with the mindset of the Anisoran authorities.”

Lord Valiano interrupted the ambassador before he could continue, his voice rising to anger. “Signore Ambassador, I advise you to tread very carefully. If you refuse to take our security concerns seriously I will terminate this discussion here and now and this will go higher. We have ruled Aspasia for over two centuries and I am not going to take a lecture on how to manage colonial security from a nation that calls four tiny islands the grand sum of its imperial experience. Anisora will not take such insults lying down, I can assure you. I expected more from a nation that has benefited so greatly from the generosity and friendship of the Anisoran people.” His voice calmed again as he composed himself slightly. “Now, does this need to go higher or shall we continue this discussion like professional diplomats?”

The ambassador took a deep breath, played with his greyish moustache between his fingertips. He checked both his aides without exchanging a word.
“Mylord,” he replied gently, “we are only addressing the issue the way we do because we are friends. Because we can go to the bottom of this, say exactly what we think and then move on. One is not able to do that unless the bond is deep. So let’s return to the facts and let’s agree on a procedure from here on.”

Lord Valiano stared at the ambassador intensely, clearly not appreciating the attempt, albeit a deft attempt, to avoid an apology.

One of the ambassador’s clerks moved a piece of paper in front of him.
“On the matter of transit visa from The Bind and New Hapsburg in the passports… That is very common for intercontinental air travel between Vittmark and Fisks, stopovers in foreign nations. It is true that we don’t have overseas territories that allow us to touch down on Vittmarker controlled land all the time. It is, by itself, absolutely no reason for concern, having these stamps in a passport. What I am trying to say… We understand that there is reason for concern from your side, and we are willing to provide all the information needed to assess the situation.”

“I am glad to hear it, Signore Ambassador,” said Lord Valiano, appreciating the change in tone. “Now, going forward. It would be most unfortunate to cut Princess Moa’s visit to Aspasia short, given the enthusiasm Her Highness showed at the prospect of visiting our sovereign territory, and of course the benefits such a visit will have on the continuing good relations between our two nations.”

“It would be difficult to explain such an interruption, also in Aspasia. It would create bigger waves than this incident is worth, maybe?”

“That is why it would be unfortunate, Signore Ambassador. The visit will continue as planned, but we request full cooperation in our investigation. When Her Highness returns we request an interview with her translator and any information deemed appropriate to our investigation that Her Highness is willing to provide either in writing or by proxy. And we will need a chronology of the movements of Nenne Juku over the last year, especially where she was travelling from when she entered Aspasia.”

“Manda Qvist” replied the ambassador, “will report to the Anisoran embassy in Östvallen as soon as she returns. We will investigate the relation between her and Milltun Andersson more thoroughly and share that information as soon as it is available. We will also provide any information about when Nenne has registered as leaving Fisks, we will enquire with the Kakuri leadership as well. But the usefulness of all this information can only be assessed once we have been able to meet with the duo and confirm their identity. Nenne’s passport will provide some info about her travel arrangements from the last year, even travel between the Fisks islands tends to get registered.”

“All the same, we would appreciate it to be corroborated by your government. But I thank you for your cooperation in this. We will make arrangements for a delegation to identify the pair in the near future once Her Highness has safely returned to Vittmark.”

“Our steward in Fisks, Iunse Tunn, will have to travel back. Would it be acceptable if he could be our delegation? He is in the vicinity and an authority figure with a federal mandate. We could arrange for him to arrive as soon as Her Grace has returned.”

“That would be acceptable, yes.”

The next day, an embassy clerk delivered updated information to the Department of Foreign Affairs, containing the following:
  • A preliminary status report on Milltun Andersson, aged 22, including the date of graduation as junior host and witness within the Fjällsta congregation, time of serving in the Fjällsta Affirmation as conscript, including rank and remarks; as well as the exact dates of his travel towards Fisk and onward to Taumakan, including technical stop-overs in The Bind and Shangtienrand. According to the Postal Services, Milltun’s employer, he is on a business reconnaissance assignment, partially paid for by a Talpean trading house.
  • A similar report on Manda Qvist, aged 23, with her graduation date as Orkanan Caretaker, time of serving in the Fjällsta Affirmation as conscript, including rank and remarks; her current higher education as a teacher in Anisoran language and literature at Siutton University in Talpå; as well as her registered appearances abroad during this trip. Manda was proposed for this trip by Fjällsta Affirmation.
  • An almost biographical report on Nenne Juku, aged 21, having been added to the leading faction called Nokumo Nobono 5 years ago at age 16, her first visit to Vittmark and the Royal Palace in 7576 and her second visit in 7578 where she registered an Exemplar as well as underwent an unspecified medical procedure at the hospital of Östervallen. Nenne is one of only five emissaries allowed to travel between the Kakuri settlement and Fisks. Her role after her resignation from the executive is that of healer. She has been awarded the title ‘lady on Ny Skiöldavik’ by Queen Anna.
    Her whereabouts and activities in Carls Nybygge could be re-created quite easily, because of her status as an emissary. She arrived by trimaran in the port in the company of three other Kakuri, of which two are part of the current leadership. She was welcomed by Princess Moa, moved to the Residency for a formal meeting with the Fisks administration, followed by dinner. Due to an illness of one of the other Kakuri, Nenne left the Residency in the middle of the night.
  • A short report by Iunse Tunn, federal steward at Fisk, confirming the timeline of the day before Princess Moa set off for Aspasia. He also reports that the telegram from the Foreign Department was interpreted as a travel ban in connection to Princess Moa’s visit, which resulted in cancelling the travel plans for Urashinu. So the entire delegation was reduced from 7 to 5 persons. Iunse recalls having seen Milltun on board towards Aspasia, but did not see him disembark in Julicannia.
  • A list of all Kakuri natives with a passport.

Beside that, the clerk handed over a formal complaint about the unilaterally acclaimed travel ban for citizens of one particular member state of the federation, and that the federal government was considering similar measurements towards Anisoran citizens in case the travel ban would not be lifted.

01-09-2020, 08:07 PM
Post: #5
RE: From Aspasia, with love
Östervallen, the necessary pretext

Cabinet meeting, Östervallen, Vittmark

Palne entered the cabinet meeting, where the mood was already tense. Urban Rågersson had waited for this moment to make his move.

“Chancellors,” he announced, “my role as foreign chancellor seems to have reached its final destination. Clearly, whatever has happened in Aspasia, it can not have any repercussions for Her Grace. The Anisorans have kept the incident away from the public eye, but as soon as Her Grace would become involved, this ends. It would affect Her Majesty as well. We can not allow that to happen. For that same reason, Herr Kristersson can not be involved in this either, even if it was a Fjällsta Stift member that was taken into custody. So, in my role as foreign chancellor, I have to keep Her Majesty, Her Grace and Herr Kristerrson out of the wind. Being a member of Fjällsta Stift, it would look like I am only covering Fjällsta interests. The federal cabinet can not afford this, it would damage Anisoran relations even more. Therefore, I see no other choice than to step down.”

It remained quiet for a while. It was clear that Rågersson had not given Prime Chancellor Av Lårsten any indication. She was however the first to reply.

“I will take this into consideration and discuss this with Her Majesty at the earliest convenient opportunity. But I have to agree with your assessment. Moa and Palne are simply too important to receive any public damage.”

She turned her attention to Palne Kristersson, who had been invited to come up with an explanation that they could communicate with the Anisorans.

“Excellencies,” he started off rather formally and then waited a short while.

“It has been brought to my attention that both Milltun Andersson and Manda Qvist still are operating as active reserves for Fjällsta Affirmation, despite their current civilian assignments. They are both part of the same intelligence cell of the policing forces, a cell that operates parallel to the chain of command. This means that they only debrief to the commander of the Affirmation. On paper, the entire police force is my responsibility, but in reality this task has been outsourced, delegated. My proposal would be that we replace the delegates, the commander and the foreign chancellor. We could test with the Anisoran embassy if they think we have addressed the issue adequately.”

“Who are these delegates?” Chancellor Liljeroth inquired.

“The sacrifice Fjällsta Stift and the house of Blåkulla will be making are substantial. The delegates are my sisters Mia and Eva.”


Palne nodded.

“They are covering for each other. But one of them designed the mission in Aspasia as a way to damage the Anisoran-Vittmarker relations. The whole idea was to impose a Kakuri on them and have them caught. The operatives from the cell seem to have been unaware of this set-up. Commander Bokås was not informed about this either, but she still is taking responsibility”

“It fits a pattern...” Av Hagen added.

“Indeed. Mia has lived in exile in Aedeland during the Three Ways Conflict. It was only when I got the opportunity to gather my family at the Blåkulla mansion that she returned. She has always appreciated the Aedelish way of life, and especially their traditional way of government. It is no secret that she clearly has chosen to side with the representatives of the original regime. It seems that she has been able to pull over Eva to her side as well.”

“And these people are living at the Blåkulla mansion?”

“Not for long. They both will be struck from the stim as well, as well as their husbands. Eva's young daughters will be stripped from their privileges too. Remember when Anna faced a rebellion within her own family? I am making sure this won't happen again, even if it means trimming down my own family.”

It remained quiet for a while, once again. Palne seemed to have come up with some repercussions that were beyond what the cabinet had expected.

“We haven't decided about Ioska yet, Mia's daughter. She is of age and therefore allowed to make her own decisions. We have no reason to believe she is involved in this at all, but on the other hand, if she would remain, the traditionalists still have a family member in the house. We can only hope that Ioska wants to leave as well, but if not...”

The Cabinet decided to relay these new revelations to the Anisoran embassy, that the mission was designed by paramilitary forces with the aim to damage Anisoran-Vittmarker relations. Milltun, Manda and Nenne simply were pawns in a much larger game. The reason behind Nenne’s presence in Aspasia was to let her get caught and create an incident. Both responsible leaders of the paramilitary, sisters of Palne, have been relieved of their duties and will be forced to leave the stim. On top of that, the commander of Fjällsta Affirmation and the Foreign Chancellor both have resigned themselves. Based on this new evidence, the federal government will be asking the Anisorans to limit the punishment for these two to the days they already had been under arrest and then release them into the custody of the federal steward for further judgment under federal Vittmarker law.

After the meeting, Av Hagen caught up with Palne Kristersson.

“A convenient solution, if the Anisorans will buy it,” he said.

“I hope so. It's quite a sacrifice we have to make.”

“Is it?” Gumpert av Hagen looked Palne in the eye. “It comes conveniently close after our department updated you about potential hazards among the residents of your mansion.”
“That put us in the right direction, thank you.”

“Both your sisters? There is not one person in charge, but two? That's very convenient.”
“You're not believing all of this?”

“Oh, I do believe all of it, no doubt, even though I know some detail has been left out or spun in a peculiar way. But I prefer your version. Just so you know.”

Av Hagen put his index finger under his eye and tapped Palne on the back with his other hand.

Iunse Tunn’s mission was not over after Princess Moa had boarded the airship. While the royal guest was now on her way back home, he had to sort out a diplomatic problem that all parts involved had been able to keep under the carpet. He entered the police station at Taumakan and introduced himself at the desk.

“My name is Iunse Tunn, federal steward of Vittmark at Fisks. I have been asked to report to Signore D’Arcole, Superintendent of the local police.”

“Signore D’Arcole is expecting you, Sir” said the police officer. He got up from behind his desk and gestured for Tunn to follow him. The pair walked down a corridor before arriving at D’Arcole’s office. The police officer knocked and opened the door.

“Iunse Tunn, Superintendent” announced the officer, gesturing for the visitor to enter.

“My Lord of Fisks, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance,” said D’Arcole, getting up from behind his desk and shaking Tunn’s hand.

“Nice to meet you as well, Superintendent,” he replied. His Anisoran was more of a bastardised version of Auresian, but it was enough for the occasion. “It seems we have a shared problem to take care off.”

“Indeed, My Lord. It is my understanding that you wish to identify and then meet with two personages of interest?” The euphemism was a typical Anisoran way of not saying what was meant.

“If these indeed are Milltun Andersson and Nenne Juku, I can personally identify them. Fru Juku I have met several times in her capacity as local government official. Herr Andersson I have met on my way to Aspasia. I have also been informed that you have… difficulties… in establishing the reason behind their presence here. I can talk with Andersson and see what he has to say about all of this.”

“Just so, My Lord. We would be most… appreciative… of the assistance. If you would follow me.” D’Arcole opened a side door to the office and took Tunn into another room. Both Milltun and Nenne were there, sat at a table. The room was comfortably appointed, although not lavish. It was much more comfortable than the rooms the pair had been kept in for much of their incarceration.

“Can His Lordship confirm the identity of these two persons?” asked D’Arcole.

“I am interested in examining their passports as well, to see if their travel documents are the ones that have been issued by our authorities. But yes, these are the people I expected to be here once I got informed about Andersson’s and Juku’s arrest.”

In one go he addressed the duo. Or actually, Milltun only since Nenne did not understand much Wortsproke.

“Are you all right? Have you been treated well?”

“I have been in worse places, but then again, I have no experience in having to deal with law enforcement at all. Except for having no idea what is going on, we have been treated quite well. I don’t know… I don’t know what to expect. We’re fine. I guess. I haven’t been able to speak with Byebye.”

D’Arcole, who didn’t understand a word of Wortsproke, took this as his cue to leave. The Aspasian police had not been able to arrange for a Wortsproke translator, it being such a rare language in this part of the world, and without one it seemed pointless, and ungentlemanly, to stay. The superintendent didn’t expect anything untoward to occur - Iunse Tunn was a lord and government official, after all. “I will arrange for an inspection of the passports. I will leave you to your questioning.” With that the superintendent left the room, closing the door behind him.

“Hmm,” Iunse looked at the door. “I thought they would stay around. Well, they can’t seem to understand us anyway. So tell me, what happened?”

“I am not really sure. We were arrested when we tried to board a boat travelling south. They have only been speaking with Byebye.”

“What was your task?”

“Make sure Byebye and Manda could meet up and exchange information.”

“Byebye has been charged for espionage and that would make you an accomplice. She has entered Aspasia under false pretences, so they say. How did she enter?”

“I have no clue. We did not enter as a duo. You were there when we landed. We made our own way through immigration and customs, then we met up at the other side. How bad is that, espionage?”

“Pretty bad. We’re dealing with it. It wasn’t a great idea to have Byebye enter Aspasia, the authorities clearly meant no Kakuri at all time, and not as we interpreted, in the company of her highness. There is an official story, the one we’re using to get the two of you out of here. I can’t tell you the details, since it depends completely on you not being aware of it. But Palne Kristersson is involved.”

“Our Speaker… Then I am more reassured.”

“It could take a couple of days, maybe a week. I will remain in Taumakan until your release, then I will be escorting you back to Fisks. But in order to make that happen, we need to be sure what it is we’re dealing with. So I just have to ask, have you been doing anything illegal here?”

Milltun took some time before he replied. “Not that I am aware of. We might have sold some bull stories about our background to explain why we’re here, I would not think that classifies as a crime.”

“Have you met any Aspasian… factions… groups…”

“Ehm, no… The only local people we met were bar owners, people running places that could be compared to hotels.”

“So your only crime is hanging around with someone the Aspasians regard as an illegal alien.”

Milltun now stood up. “If the plan is to get me out and leave the illegal alien here, then don’t count on me. The order from my superior is to safeguard her at all costs. That order stands even when we’re in jail. I can not…”

“Don’t worry, that is not the plan. Your loyalty to your superiors is noted, it is above and beyond. No one will be left behind. Now let me see if I can talk with the superintendent, to see if we can arrange this smoothly.”

Iunse Tunn walked towards the door, which was unlocked. He opened it and asked the guard standing there if the superintendent was available.

At that moment Superintendent D’Arcole walked back into his office. “Is everything to your satisfaction, my Lord?” he asked approaching Tunn.

“It is, as far as the circumstances allow for it. Unfortunately I have not been able to get a very clear view of what has occurred here. Andersson has gotten the order to accompany Juku, more as a bodyguard than anything else. They don’t speak the same language, and I am unable to communicate with the Kakuri official either.”

Iunse Tunn made sure he used the word ‘official’ indicating that Byebye wasn’t your average Kakuri. Not that D’Arcole knew what an ‘average Kakuri’ was like, or a special one for that matter. He had never heard of the group before he started this case.

“I have been informed that a diplomatic solution is being arranged for. It will take some days to communicate this between our authorities. In the meantime, I will be staying here,” he handed over a business card. “I think the proper procedure is that both our citizens remain in your custody until word has reached you about a transfer. Unless the superintendent has a different suggestion.”

“As you say, My Lord. We will be in contact with you if and when my political masters decide it is time to hang over the pair.” D’Arcole noticed the way the steward of Fisks had phrased his sentence, as if he was giving the Anisorans leave to keep the prisoners here. No matter where you were, D’Arcole thought, you can’t escape the self assurance of aristocrats! Or maybe it was just Iunse Tunn’s clumsy and indirect way of formulating that led to this conclusion.

“Is it OK if I check in tomorrow as well, to take a look at the paperwork? Since we have no diplomatic representation here, I am working on orders I received over a day ago and probably won’t be updated soon. It might be good to stay in close contact.”

“I am at your service, My Lord. It is the nature of colonial service to be perpetually waiting up-to-date orders.” D’Arcole said with a smile, trying to ease some of the tension. But Iunse Tunn laughed out loud. This might be a different colony from a different nation, but the situation was basically the same at Fisks.

A man in his early 30’s knocked at the door of the Anisoran embassy in Östvallens New Town. Despite being called ‘new town’ this part was 2-3 centuries old and had seen quite some ups and downs during those era’s. But the Anisoran embassy was located in one of those buildings that had withstood the times rather well, sturdy, plastered in ocre, square windows placed deep into the thick stone walls. The stairway leading to the front door was new, part of refurbishing this part of town.

“Fallgren of Fjällsta Stift with my client Manda Qvist. We have been asked to update the ambassador about the outcome of a recent visit to Aspasia.”

That introduction was kind of euphemistic, but not far from the truth either.

The Anisoran official welcomed them to the embassy before taking them to the ambassador’s study. The walls of the corridor were filled with small portraits, many of them of Anisoran diplomats who served in Ostvallen right back to the Greater Stoldavic Empire. The official knocked on the ambassador’s door before ushering the Vittmarkers inside. The room was typically appointed for an Anisoran residence, with elaborate wood work, heavy cloth and large paintings adorning the walls. “Signore Fallgren of Fjällsta Stift and Signora Manda Qvist, Signore Ambassador.”

The ambassador, Sir Giuliano d'Attenzo, was a gaunt man in his sixties, his hair gone and his moustache light grey. He wore spectacles but took them off as he looked up at his visitors.

“Welcome, Signore Fallgren. Signora Qvist. Please” said the ambassador, gesturing for the two to take a seat.

“Thank you, Your Excellency,” Manda Qvist replied. “I’ve been asked to shed some light on some recent events in Aspasia. I can’t tell you how much privileged I felt having been able to make this journey. Ever since I started my education as a teacher in Anisoran language and culture, I have been dreaming about visiting the more exotic part of your great nation.”

The ambassador smiled despite himself. He knew this was of the utmost political importance to his masters in Pena, but he couldn’t help smiling when discovering a foreigner had dedicated themselves to the study of his own native culture and language. It was the nature of an ambassador, perhaps, to want to promote one’s own land and the study thereof. “I am pleased to hear you enjoyed your visit. I hope also that Her Highness Princess Tovemor enjoyed her visit to Aspasia?”

“She surely has. It has been a revelation for her. This was my first journey in her service, but she has told me she never had such a varied and learning experience while abroad as when she was able to visit Aspasia. She can not thank the Anisoran authorities for allowing her to experience Aspasia first hand and she would not forgive me if I would not take this opportunity to extend her gratitude towards his Excellency once more.”

“Her Grace is only too kind. It was the highest of honours for the Anisoran people and our colonial officials to host Her Grace. We are all humbled by the energy, intellect and insight Her Grace exhibits and are humbled still further that she has learned so much from her visit. Her Grace’s continued interest in my people and those under our care is thanks enough.” Ever the diplomat, ‘those under our care’ was a phrase used frequently by Sir Giuliano to describe the people under Anisoran imperial control.

“Now, to turn to the matter at hand, I am expected to report to Pena on your recollections regarding the most recent - um, incident - to take place in Aspasia..”

“I was not aware of an incident at the time, but have been updated later. It seems like an unfortunate misunderstanding, but I am here to give full disclosure. Signore Fallgren here is accompanying me to make sure that I won’t elaborate into too many details regarding Her Grace. It is standard protocol at the royal palace.”

“Of course,” said the ambassador with a smile, inclining his head for her to continue.

“I was informed that the event was triggered by my visit to an establishment in Taumakan. I was informed that a former colleague of mine happened to be there as well. Milltun Andersson and I served in the same unit of the paramilitary of Fjällsta. We bumped into each other on board the airship and when we talked about what took us to Aspasia, we assessed that we both would be in Taumakan at the same time. So I promised him I would meet up if my schedule allowed for it. It was quite late, but we managed to meet.”

“Who else was travelling with you aboard the airship, on your way to Aspasia?” asked the ambassador.

“I can’t recall exactly, there were nearly 30 people on board, including staff. I was travelling with Fisks’ steward Iunse Tunn, Her Grace and her assistant Alis. We had our own security staff, Svea Gefna in charge and Ludde Ludvigson as subordinate. There were some federal officers on leave, I don’t know their names though. Milltun was there too.” She stopped there.

The ambassador was noting down the names she gave. “Thank you. To your recollection, were there any members of the Kakuri clan aboard the airship at any point of its journey?”

“Beside Her Grace,” Manda replied before exchanging some looks with Fallgren. “I met quite a lot of Kakuri when we had a stopover at Fisks. One of the ruling classes was embarking the vessel at the same time, a very young woman named Nenne. I did not encounter her while on board.”

“Would I be wrong in assuming that as Governor of the East Crown Domains, and the leader of the Kakuri clan besides, Her Grace would know this young girl personally?”

“Yes, she does,” Manda replied without consulting Fallgren. “Nenne has visited Vittmark on at least two occassions and was a guest at the court. We spoke a bit when we met at Fisks, I was surprised to see her speak Anisoran. She says she has learned most of it from the Sisters Of Mercy, a colleague received copies in several languages from Her Majesty herself, she used it for self studies.”

“How interesting” said the ambassador with a smile. “The Sisters of Mercy is a truly inspiring text - and a copy of Her Majesty’s no less. A great gift. Were you with Her Grace for the entire journey to Aspasia?”

“Well, yes… no… On board the airship she had her own quarters which she only shared with her assistant. And during time off, I was allowed to spend time on my own. Meeting Milltun in Taumakan was one of those occasions. I can not believe he is being accused of espionage. That’s not the Milltun I know.”

“I will return to Milltun soon, if you’ll permit me. But during your journey on the airship did you see this young Kakuri girl speak to Her Grace or approach her at any point?”

“I have not seen Nenne on board the airship, so I don’t know who she met.”

“I quite understand” replied the ambassador. “It is nevertheless safe to assume she did not approach Her Grace, for the order of my government to prevent any Kakuri member from entering Aspasia had already been issued. Had she met with Her Grace, I do not doubt that the Princess would have alerted the girl to the wishes of the Anisoran government and forbidden her from entering Aspasia. It is thus safe to assume a meeting did not occur. In that vein, do you not think it strange that a close associate of Her Grace should not seek her out aboard the airship? To exchange pleasantries or enquire as to Her Grace’s health?”

“Your Excellency would have to ask Her Grace, any statement from my side would be mere speculation. I am however aware that the intention was that the baroness Urashinu would attend this visit as well, but it was made clear before we left that she could not attend due to demands from the Anisoran authorities.”

“The demands had been made, as you say, before you left. In that case, we can see no reason why Miss Nenne should have been aboard the airship, knowing she could not enter Aspasia after departing.”

“I am just the interpreter for this journey, I have not been involved in any of the security arrangements or diplomatic requirements if they did not affect my task. So I would not know about the exact timing of demands, nor the exact contents. The airship itself was en route to Vittmark with one or more stopovers. Many of the travellers did not have Aspasia as final destination.”

“Very well, thank you. Turning to Signore Andersson. You mentioned you both served in a Fjällsta stift paramilitary unit. To your knowledge, is Signore Andersson still assigned to this unit?”

“We both served at the same company, the 16th stationed in Nelvesdalia, the deep south. We got assigned to different companies after half a year. He ended his conscription a bit later and joined the postal services. So I’d have to say the answer is no, he is no longer assigned to this unit.”

“Did Signore Andersson display any particular political beliefs during your time together as colleagues, or subsequently?”

“We are all freethinkers within Fjällsta Stift, that gives us political baggage by definition. Most of us agree with the party that represents us in parliament. It’s a ruling party. But within Vittmark, it can be considered radical anyway. Maybe outside as well.”

Fallgren now entered the conversation. “As Freethinkers we have been denied land ownership, that sets us apart from other Orkanans. But we think that other means of production can be owned and operated collectively and for the greater good. We support federalisation of the railway system, to name just one example, and open it up for multiple operators each paying a usage fee. So we want to bring Fjällsta’s way of operating to the federal level. Those kinds of topics are discussed everywhere in freethinker society, at the work floor, in our mantalshus and of course also among our paramilitary policing forces.”

“Thank you, both, for explaining” said the ambassador. “While Signore Andersson likely shared your views as a fellow Freethinker, did he express any other particular belief or opinion of a political nature? Do you know of his perspectives on being sent to a Vittmarker and Anisoran colony, for example?”

“Let me see…” Manda started. “I’m not sure how Milltun’s political views would have anything to do with this, but on the other hand, since it doesn’t… We did talk a bit about our experiences with governing Fisks and what we both have experienced in Aspasia. I was in a totally different environment of course. I can’t recall him fishing for certain information, or expressing an opinion, they were more observations. That’s what people do if they end up in a new surrounding, it gives a new perspective on our own situation as well.”

“Undoubtedly, Signora Qvist. As an ambassador, I enjoy nothing more than visiting new places. When you met on the airship and in Taumakan, what was the purpose of Signore Andersson’s visit to Aspasia?”

“He told me he was on a trading mission for the postal service. Establishing contacts for Vittmarker companies. It was all a bit vague to me, but I don’t get international trade. Talpei was involved somehow. Which seems logical, since all trade between Vittmark and Anisora goes through Talpei. He really tried to explain, but after a couple of drinks, he gave up. That was in Taumakan.”

“Interesting. And was he alone on this assignment for the ‘postal service’?”

“Your Excellency, I don’t work for the postal services. I would not know.”

“What I meant was, did he mention anybody he was with in Aspasia? A colleague or employer, perhaps?”

“Oh right… Well, knowing Milltun, he would not be alone anywhere. He is always in the company of someone. Like his ability to drag me away after my long work schedule to meet in a bar on the other side of Gotha. He is a joyful person. But I did not meet anyone else from the postal service there.”

“I see” said the ambassador. “Before or after your meeting with Signore Andersson, did you see Miss Nenne at any point during your visit to Aspasia?”

“No,” Manda lied with a straight face, “I heard Milltun got arrested in her company. I was truly surprised. But then again, Milltun is never alone...”

“And he gave no indication that he knew her or any other Kakuri at any point?” said the ambassador.

“Milltun attended the dinner at Fisks’ Residency, it’s a tradition that air passengers get to experience at Fisks. Twice a week, 10 to 15 guests. There were Kakuri present there. I personally sat with Urashinu. Nenne was there. And a couple more Kakuri. But I can not possibly say who talked to whom.”

“During your visit to the Principality of Pakatayu in the south of Aspasia, were there any unexpected meetings or local politicians of note that you or Her Grace encountered?”

“There were no deviations from the established programme. Her Grace was getting tired after a long journey with many interesting meetings, so she focused on getting to know her host and the place she visited more. Everything according to the pre-arranged schedule, beside that we took more time for most events.”

“Thank you very much Signora Qvist, Signore Fallgren. I appreciate your time and the information you have provided. I sincerely hope that this difficulty does not overshadow Her Grace’s visit to Aspasia, and indeed your own.”

“On the contrary. We have to thank the Anisoran government to deal with this situation discreetly, so that Her Grace could continue her visit uninterrupted. It is possible that Her Grace would have preferred to have been updated immediately, but I have to agree with the assessment that it was better to handle it this way. It’s an unfortunate incident, probably a misunderstanding or misjudgement, but a minor one. I have to apologise if my late evening visit in Taumakan has caused any confusion. Let me assure you that this was the last thing I would want to happen. If I would have known before, I would not have met up with my former colleague.”

Both Vittmarkers left the building in a bright mood.

“Beer? I’m buying.”

“That went better than expected. Still some open ends, but a watertight story would be even more suspicious.”

“Could we agree on not doing these kind of things anymore in the future? This could have ended way worse.”


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